Sep | 6

Voices of the Run: John Avila

It was a journey to get to a point where I could come out. Through running I was able to process my transition into this new chapter of my life.

I started running in June 2014, when I was introduced to Frontrunners, an LGBT running group. I met my first gay friends as part of that group. None of my friends outside of Frontrunners knew I was gay at that time though. I’m from a different generation. I didn’t know anybody in my family who was gay. I had no role models. As I got older, I found myself confronted with a feeling. The fact I was attracted to men was buried inside me. I was afraid of the consequences of coming out– that my kids and friends wouldn’t love me anymore.

But I realized that I needed to be who I really am. It was like peeling away outer skin. I was married for 25 years and have three kids. My wife and I divorced four years ago. I started running a few months after the divorce.

I remember my first run with Frontrunners along Chicago’s lakeshore. I could run just a mile, and that included stopping to walk. But it was good to be outside because when I ran, I felt freedom. I still do.

brooks running stories of diversity, brooks running profile of everyday runners, everyday runner stories, sarah gearhart runner storiesRunning has helped me find my identity and feel good about who I am. In April 2016 at the Proud to Run race, which is an LGBT race in Chicago, I came out to everybody I worked with and to my family. Being a part of Frontrunners has given me energy and strength.

When I look back, I realize how much running has been an amazing enlightenment. I’m very comfortable with who I am–a confident gay father. I can be a role model to other young men. A whole other part of my life has been to become more involved with the gay community. I’m part of a gay dad’s group, and I try to promote other gay fathers to get involved with running too because I think it’s a really great activity to help develop who you are. I’m also on the board of Proud to Run and help organize the race.

Being a part of Frontrunners has influenced me to set higher goals for myself. I’ve gotten more into racing, which is something I wasn’t interested in when I started running. But it’s exciting, another level of commitment. I’m going to run a 5K and a 10K this summer and also a 15K later this year. Maybe next year I’ll run a marathon. I’m trying to push myself as I keep moving forward. Running continues to be a big part of my journey of living a positive, healthy lifestyle.

About Sarah Gearhart
Sarah Gearhart is a sports journalist based in New York City. Formerly a senior producer for USA TODAY Sports, her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Runner's World Magazine, ESPN, Vice Sports and Victory Journal. An avid runner for 17 years, she is a three-time Boston Marathon qualifier and has completed 11 marathons, most recently in Berlin, Germany, where she also curated a running-related photography exhibition.

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